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Tresa LeClerc


The Solaris Phase

Amiga, mira. I’ve been using a 10-dollar black Target folding chair to take my calls. My back is arched and neck cranked like a nosy magpie. It makes the perfect headshot. Es importante porque I stare at my reflection all day in a silver 2011 desktop computer I’ve lugged into the loungeroom. I’m on Zoom. Stuck between the cascading pop up boxes and screenshotted pandemic memes. I find the corner x’s and obliterate them. The tiny little green camera light is so bright it dries my eyes. The new black bookshelf from Ikea is a nice backdrop. It’s stacked with books that look like broken teeth with dusty trinkets stuck in there. The best part is that it jets upward out of the screen. Those inside should not see the house.

Prima, escucha. Have you seen the 1972 movie Solaris? This psychologist on Earth gets a call. Scientists on a space station orbiting a new planet are losing it. When he arrives, they won’t leave their rooms. He knocks on their doors, asking to speak to them. As he does, he catches glimpses of the inside. It’s been a while, but recuerdo a mysterious child is running, breaking things. A door is slammed in the psychologist’s face. A naked woman passes in the background as the man politely asks to be excused. Choatic sounds. Shit is getting weird.

Linda, porfa. Did you read this article about the third quarter of isolation, when “things get weird”? It’s been reposted so many times. I glanced at it before I clicked start on the Zoom meeting. As I speak I can see into the guests’ houses. In the background of one of the windows a dog pushes open the door and bursts in. Someone is cooking in the kitchen. My orange cat jumps onto the computer and almost knocks it over. The chat on the screen blows up with comments:

Cute kitty!

Chonk!

Awwwww.

Whatshisname?

Love.

Escuchame, mi amor. In the film, the planet is studying the people. It is sentient. It has manifested their memories, their anxieties into living breathing things. Replicas which the humans on the space station kill over and over again. Replicas which return, unconcerned with death.

I think I’m entering the Solaris phase of isolation. Outside the earth is gasping for air and inside I’m wrestling with my demons. I catch glimpses through Zoom of guests in their doorways. We smile half-hearted smiles. We watch our reflections, simulacra of ourselves, as we turn off the camera. Presumably, our digital selves disappear. I reopen the application. It comes back. We smile at each other again.

Mi prima linda, es terrible. I think about all the times you’ve called. Every one of them you asked me how I was in a way that meant you really wanted to know:

Prima, ¿cómo estás, mi amor?

¿Cómo estás? Te amo.

¿Cómo estás, prima? ¿cómo estás?

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All images other than author photos and artist artwork ©Matthew Batt 2020